Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Questions (191)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

191. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 492 of 12 October 2021, the exact date that his Department engaged a company (details supplied); if he will provide all documentation in relation to the contract; the reason it was not possible to put this contract out to tender given that Ireland was at least 10 months into the Covid-19 pandemic and the sense of urgency was not; the number of weekly meetings held; if the minutes of all meetings can be made available particularly in circumstances in which Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas were mentioned; the reason this contract was on 8 October 2021; the details of the final engagement with the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57761/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

A core element of the COVID-19 Vaccine communications strategy involved encouraging the public to get the vaccine, informing them who will administer it and where, identifying people of trust to act as ambassadors for the vaccine and addressing emerging mis and disinformation themes relating to the COVID-19 vaccine.

This work was supplemented by the work of Kinzen, a company engaged by my Department in early 2021 to monitor the online dissemination of mis and disinformation relating to COVID-19 and COVID-Vaccines.

The daily report of mis and disinformation topics and trends provided to my Department and the HSE by Kinzen, supported by a weekly meeting involving my officials and officials from the HSE to discuss current themes proved invaluable and, in my opinion, contributed to Ireland's extraordinary success of Ireland's Vaccination Programme.

This enabled my Department to work with public health doctors to address the mis and disinformation and direct the public to official sources of information, such as the Department’s own website, the COVID-19 Data Hub and the HSE’s website. The HSE also undertakes considerable social media advertising campaigns in order to promote public health guidelines, advice and vaccine uptake across platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. The partnership with Kinzen allowed my Department and the HSE to target communications messages in a given week to support vaccine uptake.

Due to the extreme urgency brought about by the unforeseen circumstances pertaining to the global pandemic, the widespread dissemination of vaccine mis and disinformation, and the speed with which Ireland’s COVID-19 Vaccination Programme was rolled out, it was necessary to procure this service outside of normal tendering processing. As of Friday, 08 October, my Department and the HSEs work with Kinzen has been completed.

The other information requested by the Deputy is not suitable for the Parliamentary Question process. A Freedom of Information request can be sent to my Department to request these records.